THANK YOU - Blake’s appeal reaches �50,000

The family at the centre of a fund-raising phenomenon has thanked you, our readers, for your overwhelming kindness.

When Luke and Debbie Barley nervously launched the Blake's Wish To Walk appeal in July, they never imagined their �50,000 target would be met in just a matter of weeks.

They hoped to raise enough money to fly Blake to America to undergo a pioneering procedure to help him walk unaided.

But the couple's dream touched the hearts of thousands – and how!

Luke and Debbie's lives were changed overnight and their little boy was caught up in a whirlwind of publicity and events – always smiling but struggling to understand all the attention.

The first donation came in at 8.15 the very morning the appeal featured on the Times's July 7 front page and we pledged our support to publicising the cause. Mrs Barley was often moved to tears by the heartfelt phone calls, emails and letters that followed.

All sorts of events, from sponsored leg waxes and Zumba parties to gigs, coffee mornings and motorbike marathons have been held to boost the coffers. The local community has shown itself always willing to give despite the tough economic times.

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'We are so excited to have reached our target,' said Mrs Barley, 33. 'Luke and I are overwhelmed by the support we've received over the past 15 weeks. To hit our target in such a short time is absolutely incredible and a testament of the community spirit we have been fortunate to experience.

'We would like to thank every single person who has contributed to Blake's appeal, whether it be helping at or organising events, offering raffle and auction prizes, donating finacially and for coming to our many events to show their support. We are thrilled that we can give Blake the chance to have a more inclusive and independent future. To see him chase after [siblings] Beth and Bryce, play games he'd never have managed and walk out of nursery without his frame would be a dream come true.'

Blake, who uses a walking frame to get about, was born 10 weeks early and developed a form of cerebral palsy after suffering a bleed on his brain.

Permanent stiffness in his leg muscles means he can only walk on tiptoes and must wear uncomfortable leg splints 23 hours a day to force his heels to the floor.

And yet he stays cheery, despite enduring chronic pain in his back, legs and hips.

He has recently started to use a wheelchair. 'I know lots of mothers go through it, but it's horrible seeing him in it,' Mrs Barley said.

After researching potential treatments online, Mrs Barley came across a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which severs the nerves responsible for sending faulty messages to the legs.

Demand for the operation means it is not readily available on the NHS, and paying for private treatment in this country was not an option.

Believing that the sooner Blake had the operation, the better, Mr Barley, a 38-year-old builder, and his wife set about trying to raise the money themselves.

The rest is history. It's a chapter of which YOU can be very proud.